In the long run, a healthy diet of imaginative play will strengthen your child’s ability to tackle difficult, non-linear problems both academically and in the real world. Imaginative play turns ordinary things into a bundle of possibilities. A newspaper becomes a telescope, a briefcase, or a log. A stick becomes a wand, a cane, a baton, etc. The point is that the grip of ‘primary use’ is relaxed during imaginative play. Exploratory thinking takes over and possibilities become endless.
Another important element of imaginative play is that it is sustained almost entirely by creative energy. There is nothing to plug in. No batteries are required, etc. In most cases the props in use are nothing but what imagination says they are. In other words, there is no mistaking the source of stimulus and fun. Your child is at the helm, exercising creativity in the purest sense of the word.
Things are pretty good when your child wants to play activities that are wholesome and educational. Here’s a top-shelf activity you can enjoy for years to come. The name alone—‘Starlight Theater’—will capture your child’s interest. It’s the perfect activity to move past a ho-hum routine and put the wonder of childhood into action.
Think of the activity as your own household theater company. Use items on hand for props and draw from real life experiences and story books for dramatic material. A performance works best with three or more people—two performers and one or more audience members. If circumstances dictate, you can also make do with two people (both performers)—just refer to the performance as rehearsal.
The activity begins backstage with a conference between you and your child. Discuss possible dramatic material. The first few times you play this activity be sure to keep things as simple as possible. A good beginner episode might be to help an old person across the street. Too simple? Keep in mind that your child is undertaking the unique process of transferring her own self into her idea of another person. This may be a powerful new experience for your child, and there is no need to hurry things.
If you are playing with three or more people then rotate performers. Each time have the performers begin with a conference backstage. This conference can be every bit as valuable to your child as the performance itself. If your child is in the audience (on the living room couch) waiting for the performance to begin, she will be waiting with a new found appreciation for the time and effort that goes into good preparation. In fact, being on both sides of the show is likely to single handedly allow your child to form the concept of preparation.
Dramatic material can include anything under the sun, provided it’s safe and age appropriate. If your child loves to ride trains, set up chairs for seats and allow her to be the train conductor. End this performance by exiting the train at your stop. If your child loves the story Little Red Riding Hood, take turns being the big, bad wolf disguised as grandma. An adequate disguise might include a scarf tied beneath the chin. Have Little Red Riding Hood make those time honored observations, “My, what big eyes you have, Grandma.” When she gets to the part about the teeth, the wolf throws back his scarf and bellows those dreadful words, “The better to eat you with, my pretty!” Your child will never tire of inventing new ways to conquer the wolf. How does that happen? That’s what the backstage conference is all about.
In no time you’ll have a full menu of go-to performances, and the fun and challenging part of the activity will be coming up with new material. Best of luck!
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